Omar tweet faces pushback from Democrats

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U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar is publicly clashing with members of her own party after a group of House Democrats criticized the congresswoman, saying Omar's tweet "equating the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban is as offensive as it is misguided."

Republicans, long critical of Omar, are pushing Democrats to take stronger action against the second-term lawmaker.

Omar's outspoken views on foreign affairs have at times differed greatly from those of fellow Democrats. She has been critical of Israel and is a prominent voice on Palestinian human rights, putting her at odds in key moments with Jewish Democrats such as Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips, who was one of twelve lawmakers issuing the joint statement criticizing Omar.

"As usual, the far right is ginning up hate against Rep. Omar for a technical question about an ongoing investigation. This has already led to an increase in death threats against her and our staff," Omar spokesman Jeremy Slevin said in a statement. "And now some of her own Democratic colleagues are ginning up the same Islamophobic hate against her, accusing her of giving 'cover to terrorist groups' simply for exercising oversight over a criminal investigation."

Omar has continued to stand by the tweet that came after a Monday hearing by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. That day, Omar questioned U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken about how victims of war crimes could find justice given opposition by the United States to investigations via the International Criminal Court. Omar tweeted out video of her exchange with Blinken, saying "we must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity."

"We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban. I asked @SecBlinken where people are supposed to go for justice," Omar said in the tweet.

Her spokesperson explained on Tuesday that in 2020 the court "opened an investigation into alleged crimes committed by both the Taliban and the United States in Afghanistan, as well as allegations against Hamas and Israel in the 2014 Gaza conflict in 2021."

The House GOP's campaign arm, chaired by Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer, attacked Omar Tuesday along with Republican members of Congress.

In a tweet Wednesday night, Omar said "every time I speak out on human rights I am inundated with death threats," and tweeted audio of one message that included a racial slur. Soon after, the dozen House Democrats released their statement that called on Omar "to clarify her words placing the US and Israel in the same category as Hamas and the Taliban."

"Ignoring the differences between democracies governed by the rule of law and contemptible organizations that engage in terrorism at best discredits one's intended argument and at worst reflects deep-seated prejudice," said the statement late Wednesday night. "The United States and Israel are imperfect and, like all democracies, at times deserving of critique, but false equivalencies give cover to terrorist groups."

Minnesota Democrat Angie Craig didn't sign the letter but said in a statement, "I strongly disagree with Representative Omar's statement – and believe it was a false equivalency. To equate the democracies of America and Israel to terrorist organizations is completely inappropriate and unacceptable."

A Thursday morning response from Omar's office said she "reached out to the letter organizers before it was released in order to offer clarification. Those calls were not returned."

Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has escalated the call for action against Omar, pressuring Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"Rep. Omar's anti-Semitic & anti-American comments are abhorrent," McCarthy tweeted. "Speaker Pelosi's continued failure to address the issues in her caucus sends a message to the world that Democrats are tolerant of anti-Semitism and sympathizing with terrorists."

This isn't the first time Omar has drawn prominent criticism from within her own party. Omar apologized in 2019 over a tweet that implied money is behind lawmakers' support toward Israel. Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders said in a statement that "Omar's use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel's supporters is deeply offensive."

Yet when it came to the Wednesday statement from members of her own party, Omar seemed to double down on her words. In a separate pair of tweets following the statement, Omar called it "shameful" that fellow members of Congress "who call me when they need my support to now put out a statement asking for "clarification" and not just call."

She further charged that "the islamophobic tropes in this statement are offensive," and "the constant harassment & silencing from the signers of this letter is unbearable."

"Citing an open case against Israel, US, Hamas & Taliban in the ICC isn't comparison or from "deeply seated prejudice." You might try to undermine these investigations or deny justice to their victims but history has thought us that the truth can't be hidden or silenced forever," Omar tweeted.

Amid the tensions between House Democrats, one Omar ally moved quickly Thursday morning to defend her fellow lawmaker. Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib and Omar are the only two Muslim women serving in the House.

"I am tired of colleagues (both D+R) demonizing @IlhanMN," Tlaib tweeted. "Their obsession with policing her is sick."

Hunter Woodall • 612-673-4559

Twitter: @huntermw

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